Daylight has long been associated with health, and in Dr Hobday's book, The Healing Sun, he reminds us of the work of Vitruvius in the first century BC with his ten books on architecture. Among the classic principles of harmony proportion and symmetry, as Vitruvius set out,
he emphasized that architects should select healthy sites for their buildings, and that careful design of buildings prevented illness. It was clear that the healthy site was one which was oriented to permit the introduction of natural light. Vitruvius was the first to study the qualitative and quantitative aspects of daylight, proposing explicit rules to assess whether an interior is well daylit.
We may have moved a great deal further than this now, but poor daylighting and the lack of sunlight is said to be responsible for what is described as 'Seasonal Affected Disorder' or SAD, which affects a large number of people at certain times of the year due to the lack of sunlight. It is not a coincidence that given the choice, people prefer to work in daylight, and choose to locate close to a window. The presence of natural light at times when it is available in a building, is an important environmental consideration.
It is often forgotten that people are the major asset and expense of a company. To get relative costs into perspective, the annual lighting costs of a person in an office can be the equivalent to only 3-4 hours salary. If staff are visually impaired through inadequate working conditions and poor lighting, their productivity will deteriorate and output may decline on a scale far greater than the gains which might occur from the installation of more energy efficient (but less user friendly) lighting.
Poor lighting can affect workers' health, badly designed or poorly maintained lighting can cause stress and lead to various forms of complaint, eye discomfort, vision or posture. Dry or itching eyes, migraines, aches, pains and other symptoms, often known as Sick Building Syndrome, can be caused by poor or inappropriate lighting installations. A purely energy efficient approach to workplace lighting, which pays little or no attention to user comfort, could turn out to be both ugly and ineffective.
It would be a mistake to adopt energy efficiency as the principal measure of good lighting, and whilst important, it should be balanced against those other factors leading to a comfortable and pleasant environment.
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